We all need a wingman

  • Published
  • By Linda Ambard
  • 66th Air Base Group Community Support Coordinator
We all need a wingman. Many of us would never admit that at times we plaster on a mask and show up at work with a smile on our face. We can fool many people with this pretend-all-is-well face, but often those who take the time can tell that the laughter is forced and the eyes shroud deeper feelings.

Often we throw out the question, "How are you?" and receive a follow-on answer, "Fine," without really stopping or wanting to know more.

We rush from task to task caught up in a cycle that seems to value appointments and activities more than the people who may be quietly hurting next to us. If we took the time to listen- not just with our ears, but with our hearts-we might have to do something. And doing something requires action, time and investment in another person. It requires more than the surface touch. It involves showing up and being fully present.

A department chair at the U.S. Air Force Academy once told my husband that he could teach anyone to teach, but he couldn't teach relationships. If a person has a relationship with the people they are leading, and if they genuinely care about them, the people will want to perform and do well for the good of all.

Likewise, rules without a relationship do not work: Look at any teenager. They know which adults believe in them and are genuine, thus they step up and are genuine and positive in return. If a teen knows that the adult assumes the worst or is fearful, he or she will often respond by behaving in the expected manner which reinforces the negativity.

Being a wingman isn't always easy. When a person is suicidal, they may appear like they are doing better. While it doesn't mean that you are a counselor, it does mean knowing someone well enough to spend time with them and really listen to the answers to questions. It is in speaking up to others who can guide the hurting person to help. Wingmanship is in following up, doing what is right for the good of the individual. It's also recognizing we all need lifelines.

All relationships take time and effort. The effort comes so that when a person is hurting or needs a helping hand, they are comfortable talking to you. Additionally, relationships take action. Action isn't always easy, but it is in knowing someone and caring enough to ask the tough questions and to do what is needed to keep the other person safe or from doing something they shouldn't. Action also requires stepping up and not waiting for someone else to take action.

People often assume that there are other people who are closer or better able to help; but in waiting, people who are hurting often break further. Being a wingman is looking beyond the mask and saying, "If not me, then whom shall it be?"